Today we had the Queen stage of the 2014 tour of turkey. 3 long climbs between 12-22km in length all neatly spaced out along a 182km stage was always going to see who the strongest rider in the race was. I was super confident for today, perhaps to much as I would find out at days end so started the stage full of optimism. All the cannondale boys were pretty spritely this morning actually after two good sprint stages it was time to see what formula 1 formolo and I could do in the hills.
The stage on paper I thought was an absolute beauty. 3 longs climbs totaling almost 50km in combined length and merely 10km of depending all day. Basically meant it was a recipe for a brutally hard day from start to finish and when you through in a road surface that was somewhere in between hotmix and gravel you basically needed to have some pressure on the pedals all day long. Usually these days are the ones I really look forward to as its like doing 5hrs on the home trainer which oddly enough I greatly enjoy just without my big 3d TV, austar cable, and of course an endless supply of old cycling movies! With the first climb after 30km the chances where things would not hot up until then and surely when we started the first of our 3 monster climbs the group was all together but that didn't last long!
I had been hoping for this as I felt it was my best chance to get away in a strong breakaway. In 2011 a similar stage played out when I did just that and it ended up deciding the GC, alas no matter how attentive or aggressive I was it just didn't happen. Attack after attack ensured on the first climb and the group was scattered all over the place. The climbers were obviously all to the fore but also nobody was isolated and had members of there team around them. This meant that when a group formed it always was missing one strong team. Added to that, we'll atleast I found out when I was in what I felt was a dangerous move nobody wanted to work to get it away. A team may have had a rider in the group but I may not have been there GC man so with the presence of other GC riders from other teams they off course did not help and ultimately killed the momentum and you would be brought back. So try as I might to get something going it just didn't happen and as often happens after an absolute bull tearing start to a stage a cease fire is called and small group slips away and everybody goes super easy, one extreme to the next and tool 70km for that to occur today. The broken group reformed and we headed to the second climb at a very leisurely pace.
Onto the second and longest climb of the day and I slotted myself in up the front with formula 1 formolo. The pace was pretty cruisy for the first half before the south African team MTN forced the issue in the second half. This would half the size of the peleton by the top not surprisingly and also put the sting in some legs. One set of legs I noticed it wasn't stinging was formolo who was impatiently sitting behind me. I say impatiently as he kept on cruising up beside me I could tell just itching to open up the throttle. I had to have a quick word with him to just cool the jets and as its a headwind he is better nestling himself in behind my big frame and saving his energy. He reluctantly agreed and slotted into the slip stream. Infant I can't remember being more than 1m away from formolo much of the day except in the beginning when we were trading turns covering moves and in the final 5km when I imploded but more on that later. Formolo as I have said is my favorite team mate and for some reason we cruise through the bunch well together, whether it me following him or him following me it doesn't matter, I always feel calm in the race knowing he is there. Anyways so over the top of the climb and now was just a 50km flat drag to the base of the final 12kick to the line. I started feeling a little light headed at the top of the 2nd climb but shook it off and slammed another caffeine gel, unfortunately this turned out to be a big flashing warning sign that would bite me on the backside on the final climb.
On the flat there was another re grouping of sorts and formolo and I were joined by our strongmen. Marunga motorbike marongoni, our austrain strongman, and GB the Canadian cannonball were all present and accounted for and quickly set up a wall of defense around formolo and I. These guys are absolute expects at having there men in the right place at the right time and today was no different. When Marunga, Krisek and GB are with you you simply stick it into auto pilot and follow there wheels, it's so relaxing. The boys were simply awesome and what made me feel the best was how positive they were. They told me I looked like I was spinning really well which was great as it backed up how I felt! They wanted to ride on the front and to back myself but I said just wait and see what happens, probably was a sign that in the back of my mind I knew something just felt a bit off! As we approached the final climb it was a block head wind and the boys were chomping at the bit to get on the front and light it up. Once astana used there final man with 10km to go I couldn't hold krizek back. Marunga and GB had held the front spot into a nasty headwind and krizek drummed out a vicious tempo for a few km that shelled around 50riders. At this point my confidence was growing and when he swung of inside 7km from the line the group that remained was going to fight out the stage. Immediately MTN again took up the pace making and again I was quickly onto the wheel, all was on track as I anxiously awaited the final 3km kick to the line to see what I could do. Then almost in a split second, well perhaps over the course of 20seconds my tank was empty, I was cross eyed and had gone completely hungerflat. Stupid stupid stupid!! I briefly retreated to the back of the group for some extra shelter in a vein hope it would pass put not to be and soon I was unceremoniously dumped out of the back of the lead group. Formula 1 formolo was still spinning those youthful exuberant legs of his away in the first positions so that was a big positive that the rookie was still there flying the green flag! I tried to regain my composure and shoveled down another gel and while at 3km to go I started to make ground and looked like rejoining I again went lights out for good and in the final 2km was wondering if I would even make it to the finish line! I was pushing full gas and thinking I was doing 500 watts but when I looked down I was barely doing 200watts and 8kmph. Lucky the police escorts didn't give me a parking ticket I was going so slow! Anyways once your that far gone there is nothing you can do but grovel to the finish line.
Meanwhile up ahead formula 1 was showing all the class that to be frank he shows every single race. He is having a fantastic debut season with the team and is already a very reliable and valuable team mate on so many fronts. By days end he would arrive in the first 10 in a select group of top climbers and be 9th on GC. He was absolutely cocka hoot with his performance and I know as the week goes on he will only get better so it's going to be exciting seeing what we can do to move him up the leaderboard in the coming days.
Where did I go wrong?? Well I don't exactly know but am guessing it was a combination of many things. Firstly the start was full gas and full of action and as I felt so good, perhaps the best ever, I probably neglected eating and drinking properly in the first 2hours. Yes very stupid and short sighted on a 6hr stage! Secondly once I realized I hadn't got in enough food perhaps I scoffed down a couple of extra gells which contained caffeine and lost track of how much of it I had consumed, on a hot day like today that can be a problem later in the stage. Finally I hadn't done a hard stage like this this year so maby forgot what it takes out of you and not eaten and drank enough for dinner and breakfast this morning, again feeling so good figured would just be another day. So at the end of the day I can pin down exactly the cause of my hunger crisis but it's a safe bet that all of the above contributed. Now I simply need to learn from it and make sure I don't make the same mistake in the important races coming up but trust after feeling as bad as I felt in those final km's and crossing the line not being able to see straight, I won't be letting that happen to me again, that's for certain! One positive about completely depleting yourself of all your fuel stores in the manner I did today is the comeback feed!! It's similar to the experience of the first proper meal back after having food poisoning, food never tasted so good! Oh boy did I enjoy my turkish dinner tonight! It is what it is now and have to move on. That's one great thing about writing this blog as once I put it in writing firstly I own my words and secondly it all seems clearer in what went on, good or bad and I find it easy to put the day behind and look ahead to tomorrow's stage which no doubt will through up another set of surprises.